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Firefighters called to explosion and fire at drugs factory in Edinburgh

26 March 2012

Firefighters have tackled a blaze caused by an explosion at pharmaceutical company MacFarlan Smith in the Scottish capital on March 25. The building, on the city's Wheatfield Road, was evacuated and firefighters wearing chemical protection suits attended the scene.

A spokeswoman for the firm, which makes painkillers, said it appeared a slug of material may have caused a pressure build-up in a piece of pipework, leading to an oxygen release through blown gaskets.

The company's site director said the evacuation was standard procedure and a full root-cause analysis would be carried out.

MacFarlan Smith Ltd is one of the world’s oldest pharmaceutical companies, having produced controlled drugs, including opiates and narcotics, for almost 200 years. The company is part of Johnson Mathey's Fine Chemicals division.

“Site teams were wearing chemical protective suits to extinguish the flames and assess the extent of the damage," a fire service spokeswoman said. "There were no casualties as a result of this incident but damage was caused to pipelines in the factory."

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